Iker Muniain “My Dream Is To Be An Athletic One Club Man”
The La Liga season will be coming to a close next weekend and there are plenty of questions surrounding Athletic. Will the Lions be able to qualify for Europe? Who, if anyone, will be signed this summer to strengthen the squad. Fernando Llorente could possibly return to the club which has received mixed feelings from fans. Iker Muniain took the time to speak with Iñaki Ugalde of Mundo Deportivo but made it clear that the team is only concerned with Sunday’s match against Celta Vigo.
“Llorente? I don’t have a voice or a vote in those matters. We always say that, yes, the doors are open to anyone comes to make the team better. Now, in any case, we are just thinking about the Celta Vigo game. It will no doubt be a special day for Susaeta, Iturraspe, and Rico. When there are these kinds of farewells for teammates that you have shared many years with, it has to be a special day. The fans have to thank them.”
Muniain will be very sad to see Markel Susaeta leave the club this summer. The 25-year-old admitted that Susaeta played a big role in his life when Muniain made the jump to the first team and not having the captain around every day won’t be the same. To Muniain, Susaeta is an Athletic legend.
“Markel’s departure is a huge pain because he has been a reference for me since my first preseason with the first team. He’s an icon to me. He’s a footballer that I learned a lot from as a captain, player, and person. Markel is exemplary. He leaves a very large footprint and legacy. Not having him here every day with be sad. Markel doesn’t have to explain himself. He’s given everything for the club and is one of the top five players with the most matches. That’s a big thing when it comes to a centenary club.”
The future of Aritz Aduriz is also an uncertainty. When asked about it, Muniain stated that he really doesn’t know what the striker is going to do. He hopes that Aduriz continues at the club and also explained once again that it’s his own personal goal to spend his entire career at Athletic.
“I don’t know if Aduriz will continue and he’s not talking about anything, but I hope he can continue with us and keep scoring goals. Of course, my dream is to be an Athletic One Club Man, I won’t deny that. I signed a contract to stay at this club for many years without having a release clause. My goal is to be that One Club Man.”
Whether or not Aduriz continues, Iñaki Williams has proven this season that he is capable of playing the striker position at a high level. Muniain says that his best friend still has a lot of room to improve and that he will continue to get better.
“Iñaki’s numbers are getting very good. Maybe at the beginning there were certain criticisms towards him when was playing as the 9, but based on his work and goals, it’s the end that makes the difference. He’s managed to convince everyone that he’s a very important player in that position. He’s 24 years old and has a lot to learn and experience. With the passage of years, he will be scoring even more goals than now, which are already enough.”
Last weekend’s loss to Real Valladolid was hard to swallow. The Lions missed a golden opportunity to essentially secure 7th place in the table and must now get positive results in the final two games of the season to qualify for Europe. If Muniain had the chance, he would sign up for 7th place right now, but he’s also aware that the team has a chance to overtake Sevilla for 6th in the final game of the season.
“The match against Real Valladolid was one of those where we wanted something and it didn’t come out, so you aren’t fine or inspired. It was a pity because there were a lot of fans that traveled to the game and we couldn’t thank them with a better effort. Winning against Celta gives us many options to finish 7th and then, depending on what Sevilla do against Atlético, we could play for 6th. Would I sign right now to finish 7th? Of course! I’d do it right now, especially after how the season has gone. We would like to finish even higher, but the goal is Europe.”
Celta will come to San Mamés with just as much motivation as Athletic. While the Lions are looking to qualify for Europe, Celta are hoping to escape relegation. Muniain isn’t surprised by anything in La Liga this year and highlights that the Basques must stop Iago Aspas to get a positive result.
“We have seen throughout this League that there have been many surprised. Teams with great players, including us, have struggled and Celta and Villarreal are still fighting to not be relegated. Iago Aspas is a special player. He can unbalance a game at any time so we have to take that into account and keep them from creating danger.”
It’s easy to forget where this team came from. Gone are the days of relegation concern, now Athletic are trying to get into Europe. That being said, Muniain made it clear that the players haven’t forgotten the beginning of the season. That has made them stronger.
“Maybe now everything that we went through has been left behind, but to us who have lived it, the truth is that period left a mark on us. It was an unexpected situation, critical for the club. We were in the relegation zone with the League well advanced. Thanks to God and the work we have done since Garitano came, we have managed to climb positions.”
This season has been a rollercoaster for Athletic, but Muniain believes that it’s important to look at everything in context. The team is playing much better football under Gaizka Garitano and have completely changed the course of the campaign. The goals have changed, and that is something special.
“Yes, the initial stretch of the season has been the worst, but it also made us stronger. The team came together a lot, and the fans too. We were all together when we hit bottom and bounced up with more force. Now we want to finish well. It’s a bit excessive, both the good and the bad. You always have to visualize it correctly. When we win we aren’t the best team in the world and when we lose it’s not the biggest disaster. Since Garitano came we have done things incredibly well. The results are great and we are playing a style of football that brings incredible results.”
To end the interview, Muniain was once again asked whether he prefers to play on the wing or as an attacking midfielder. “That’s the eternal debate”, he responded. “Where I am better and can play my game better is in the midfield. I think that can be seen. You have to be available to the team. I can play on the wing or in the midfield. I like to be versatile.” Muniain is willing to play anywhere to help the team and Athletic will need to be at their best on Sunday if they want to qualify for Europe.